The latest collection of enhancements includes Year 2000 fixes, software updates, and some new tools for customers. The company regularly issues service packs in an effort to update its installed base of software.
The length of the beta process will be based on user feedback, according to a Microsoft executive. No timetable has been given for final release of the service pack.
Microsoft was stung after a second service pack for NT 4.0 was found to introduce bugs into the operating system. In reaction, the company decided to implement a closed beta process before releasing software updates and fixes.
The Year 2000 fixes follow the announcement of a new centralized site for obtaining information and software updates related to the millennium problem earlier this week.
In addition, the service pack includes fixes for elements of the company's Option Pack of server-focused software, support for Novell's client 32, and inclusion of the latest version of the Internet Explorer Web browser, among other enhancements.
Also included is a feature originally scheduled to debut with the release of NT 5.0, due sometime early next year. The new Security Configuration Editor program allows an administrator to define and apply security settings to workstation and server versions of the OS.
The software also incorporates support for DCOM-based communications through a firewall and the addition of Web-based Enterprise Management (WBEM) components.